Led by singer/songwriter Robb Benson, Dear John Letters is an alternative pop/rock and indie rock band with a knack for introspective, contemplative, and emotionally complex lyrics. Musically, Dear John Letters is usually melodic and tuneful -- even though the band's thought-provoking lyrics don't always go out of their way to be accessible, the melodies are easy to absorb. Dear John Letters' main influences include R.E.M., Elvis Costello, David Bowie, and the Beatles -- that is, the Beatles' post-1965 work (such as Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, and the White Album) more than their early- to mid-'60s recordings. And that combination of influences makes perfect sense when you consider how much the Fab Four influenced R.E.M., Costello, and Bowie (as well as countless others -- American, British, and otherwise).
Benson has lived in the Pacific Northwest his entire life. The singer/songwriter was born in Mount Vernon, WA, and he was active on the Seattle rock scene at least half a decade before the formation of Dear John Letters. In the mid-'90s, Benson formed a Seattle-based alterna-rock band called the Nevada Bachelors, which acquired a small but enthusiastic cult following in the Pacific Northwest. After recording two albums for the PopLlama label (Carrots & So On and Hello Jupiter), the Nevada Bachelors broke up -- and Benson went on to record a five-song solo EP titled Songs About Songs. But Benson had no desire to be a full-time solo artist; by 2000, he had formed Dear John Letters. The band's first two albums -- Rewriting the Wrongs in 2000 and Unbroken in 2002 -- were released on the Roam label and had limited distribution.
After that, Dear John Letters enjoyed much better distribution when the band signed with the independent, Los Angeles-based Foodchain Records (which had been the home of the all-female metal/punk band Betty Blowtorch). In 2003, Foodchain released Stories of Our Lives, Dear John Letters' first Foodchain release and third album overall. Joining Benson in Dear John Letters are bassist Richard Davidson, drummer Cassady Laton, and guitarist Johnny Sangster, who is also known for his work as a producer/engineer as well as for his guitar playing. In addition to working with well-known bands like the Posies and Mudhoney, Sangster produced the first Nevada Bachelors album and Benson's Songs About Songs EP. Benson and Sangster have also worked together as a duo; their duet project Sangster Meets Benson Benson Meets Sangster (released on Roam in 2002) was recorded between Rewriting the Wrongs and Stories of Our Lives. ~ Alex Henderson